What is the difference between "light" tuna and "white" tuna?

Ask the Dietitian

I’m confused…I thought “tuna” was “tuna” but standing at the shelf trying to decide what to buy and it’s just overwhelming!   What is the difference between light tuna and white tuna? Is one better than the other?

The tuna aisle can be confusing!  Most people buy what they always have, but there are some differences in taste, nutrients and how best to use each type.  Once you know differences it will help you buy the tuna you like best, meet your family’s needs and best fit the meal you are planning. 

Light Tuna – There are a variety of fish that fall in the “light tuna” category.  This tuna typically comes from either Skipjack or Yellowfin tuna.  The meat is darker in color – somewhere between a light tan and tan-ish pink.  It has a soft texture and is more flavorful than white meat tuna.   In many ways the texture is like a chicken thigh.  Typically it is found in a “chunk” pack, which means it is small pieces of the fish loin that have been chopped up.  It may be packed in water or a vegetable oil. 

From a nutritional perspective it is slightly lower in fat than Albacore (White) tuna and therefore is slightly lower in Omega-3s.     

This type of tuna is great for tuna salad sandwiches, tuna melts and our classic tuna casserole because it adds a nice flavor and texture and the small pieces mix easily with the other ingredients.   It also picks up flavors nicely which is why we use it in our lightly seasoned Tuna Creations line of products. 

White Tuna (Albacore) – The only species of fish that can be called “White Tuna” is Albacore.  It is white to light pink in color and has a fairly firm texture.  The flavor is mild; it has a very mild fish flavor.  In many ways it is similar to a baked chicken breast – it has a firm bite and mild flavor.   It may be sold as a solid pack – a nice tuna fillet or large pieces of fish– or it may be a chunk style, similar to the light tuna product. 

From a nutritional perspective it is a little higher in fat and may have more Omega-3 fatty acids than a light tuna.  

Albacore tuna is perfect on fresh salads, appetizers or any dish where you want to see beautiful pieces of fish and want the flavors of the dish to stand out! 

Both light and white tuna are available in low sodium varieties.   Very Low Sodium Albacore,  NEW Low Sodium Albacore and Low Sodium Chunk Light products are available in can and pouch.

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